While my southern friends are already contending with heat in the 90s and humidity that melts the body away from the soul, in Atqasuk we are experiencing breezes of 16-24 mph and windchills as low as -11F. If Forrest Gump had jogged this far north, I feel certain that he would have said, "Arctic springtime is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get."
And he'd be exactly right.
As I look out my window, every day brings something different. Today, swirling snow is gathering up in puffy piles on the window sill and lightly dusting the crusty shell that has formed over our still-frozen ground. Other days (as above) the air is cold, but the sky is clear. Sunshine toasts the rooftops and warms the surface of the snow so that treading upon it produces a little crunch.
On the edge of my roof, just outside my window, a lone snowbird is staging a concert...totally free...for anyone who will listen. I have to smile as he puffs his chest and belts out his lively tune. It's better than any lullaby (or alarm clock) I know.
Aside from ravens, snow buntings are the first birds to return to the North Slope in spring. After months (and months) of silence across the tundra, the song of the snowbird is a welcome sign that break-up is on its way.
Though I've been waking to the cheerful sound of snow buntings for several weeks, the first one that I actually spotted was on a rooftop behind the school. He was too far away for really nice photos, but watching him vigorously enjoying his snow bath was a special treat that made me smile all the way home.
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")